PHUKET: Rights groups in Thailand have informed the UN of continuing, routine use of torture in the country, ahead of a review of its compliance with an international law against torture.
In reports submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture as part of its review of Thailand under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, human rights defenders have pointed to inadequacies in law and practice of state agencies enabling the continued widespread use of torture in the country.
A coalition of seven local rights groups on April 10 submitted a 135-page report concentrating on the use of torture in the conflict-prone south, as well as against particular targeted communities.
Detailing 92 testimonies documented between 2011 and 2013, the coalition notes that many cases of torture in the south correspond with periods of extended detention without charge or trial under martial law and emergency provisions. It adds that in most cases people were tortured to have them confess to crimes or to extract information.
''Allegations of torture not only involve a broad range of perpetrators, ranging from military, police, paramilitary officials, and volunteers, but also indicate that such acts take place in various institutions,'' the coalition says.
''Detainees are often transferred several times to different detention facilities. Some of them not only reported having been mistreated in the different locations, but also at the time of their arrest and during their transportation,'' it continues.
Methods of torture described include strangling with hands or rope, choking, face dunking, kicking, punching, beating in the stomach, beating with cloth wrapped wooden bat, head-butting against the wall, force feeding, injecting with drugs that cause unconsciousness or loss of control, hooding, and electric shock.
Some detainees said they were exposed to extreme cold or heat, or to bright light or darkness for extended periods of time. Some, the torturers threatened to kill, or harm their family members.
The report points out that a draft amendment to the Criminal Code of Thailand to penalise torture is not in accordance with international standards, because it restricts the offence to only certain types of physical torture, committed by only some categories of government official, for a limited number of purposes.
In a separate 12-page report, the Justice For Peace foundation told the UN that the emergency regulations applied in southern Thailand place police operating in the region outside the rule of law. The report also describes torture and attendant abuses in the north of Thailand, particularly in the context of the so-called ''war on drugs'' and in its wake.
''Although the War on Narcotic Drugs was concluded at the end of 2003, the practice of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has continued until today,'' the Bangkok-based group says.
''State officials may arrive at the door of one's home, claiming to search for illegal goods and order a search without a court warrant, or a fake warrant, take valuables and vehicles from the house and detain the person at an unknown, unofficial place,'' it adds.
The executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Bijo Francis, noted that although Thailand had ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 2007, it still had a long way to go to comply with its terms.
''Together, these reports are revealing of the extent to which state officials in Thailand continue to disregard the spirit of the Convention, to say nothing of its letter, which to this day still has no practical effect there,'' Francis said.
''In fact, the amount of torture described is just the tip of the iceberg. We know from years of work on Thailand that torture is routinised in policing all around the country,'' he added.
The Hong Kong-based human rights group has joined calls of the groups submitting reports to the UN for a more comprehensive, systemic and urgent program to address torture through amendments to domestic law, the cessation of emergency regulations that enable its endemic use in some parts of the country, and systematic arrangements to provide redress to torture survivors and their families.